Guest Post: Dr Patrick Mahaney talks about pet adoptions

Today, Dr Patrick Mahaney and I talk about the medical aspects of adopting a pet and we talk about:
  1. Is there anything I should look out for when adopting a shelter pet?
  2. How do you recommend selecting a brand of food for a newly adopted pet?
  3. What should I know about transitioning an adopted pet from the rescue/shelter/breeder’s food to the food of my choice?
  4. Any suggestions on how to select the best vet for my newly adopted pet?
  5. What, if any, veterinary history, should I expect to get when adopting a pet from a shelter, rescue or breeder?

Laura Bennett & Dr Patrick Mahaney Pet Adoption

Related Posts:
October is Pet Adoption Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: veterinary perspective on adopting your cat or dog
Claim story: Ozzie's "perfect storm of a stomach" surgery
Guest Post: Dr Patrick Mahaney talks about pet adoptions

Other posts by Dr Patrick Mahaney

Dr Patrick Mahaney Dr. Mahaney is a veterinarian from the University of Pennsylvania and a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, having been inspired by his own chronic pain from Intervertebral Disc Disease to provide accupuncture to his veterinary clients. In addition to Dr Mahaney's house call integrative veterinary medicine business, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness, he sees patients on an in-clinic basis at Veterinary Cancer Group in Culver City, CA.

Dr Mahaney writes a veterinary column (Patrick's Blog) for and contributes to a variety of media, including Perez Hilton's, Fido Friendly, Veterinary Practice News, Healthy Pets and People with Dr Patrick on, and MSNBC Sunday with Alex Witt and Career Day. His first book, The Uncomfortable Vet, will be available in 2012 through Havenhurst Books.

Happy Sixth Birthday Embrace!

Lily, the first Embraced petWay back, on Oct 10, 2006, we sold our first Embrace Pet Insurance policy. The policy was sold to me (Laura Bennett, CEO and Co-Founder of Embrace, aka Chief Embracer) for my cat Lily when I called in from the Jumpstart offices where I happened to be when I heard the news we could "go live". Jumpstart was our first "big money" investor and I can safely say that we would not exist today without their assistance. It was more than appropriate that I make that call to buy the first policy in their offices.

Since that chilly day in October, Embrace has insured tens of thousands of pets and continues to add hundreds every month. It feels so good to say we are in our seventh year of selling policies when for the longest time, it was only a few months.

Today, we were reminiscing about "the good old days" and we shared some fun stories on our internal blog.

CooperLike the time when our new veterinary evangelist Katie started with Embrace. She was sitting in the claims department alone (it was early and she was unaware of her new boss's late starts.) Our Controller, Laura H, was in with her puggle Cooper, who wasn't feeling well and had a "blow out" accident on the floor in front of her. That was some "Welcome to Embrace!" moment she's never forgotten.

Or how about all the old procedures (we love excel!), dated photos, cramped office spaces, and frequent power outages, and the time when Lea locked herself out of the offices when taking a bathroom break on Black Friday when she was the only one working that day.

Leaning Tower of Purple BoxesAh yes, we have many many good memories of building Embrace.

Thank you to everyone who took a risk on us. To all our Embracers, our Embraced pet parents, and our investors - thank you for joining us in our adventure. Your piece of the puzzle has made Embrace what it is today. 

Your very grateful co-founders,

Laura and Alex 


Claim story: Ozzie's "perfect storm of a stomach" surgery

Today, we have a claim story from Embrace's Claims Manager, Chris Wrona. She has recently gone through over $12,000 of veterinary bills and two health crises with her dogs and shares her story here.

Ozzie 1My little boy, Ozzie, has had a rough couple of months and I’m so very thankful for Embrace. I’m the type of pet parent who will go to the ends of the earth if I know it can help my fur kids and I’ve been in the extremely difficult situation of not having an insurance policy in effect when my fur kids got sick. This was well before Embrace and I will never be without Embrace insurance again.  Prior to having insurance for my other pets,  I worked multiple jobs to pay off the debt  from their unexpected, uninsured medical expenses. I don’t have to worry about the expense now that I have Embrace insurance and can strictly focus on the best care that is needed. 

This was put to the test this past May. Ozzie, my youngest, is an amazing dog. He can jump a 4 foot wall from a standstill and is just always so full of energy but in May, Ozzie had something so simple turn into a life threatening condition and I’ll never forget the words of the surgeon “Mrs. Wrona, I need to let you know Ozzie’s prognosis is guarded and most of the pets who experience this don’t make it.” 

Ozzie began licking his rectum in May of this year. Being a veterinary technician prior to Embrace, I knew this may be something simple but shouldn’t be ignored too long. I checked his anal glands and they were normal so off to the vet we went. We decided to change to a vet closer to home (our prior vet was great but pretty far away). The vet diagnosed Ozzie with anal sacculitis but I wasn’t convinced; however, I decided to follow the treatment protocol to see how he responded. 

Ozzie 3Just a couple of days into the treatment he began bleeding from the rectum and his poor little bum became inflamed. Not large amounts of blood but enough for a neurotic pet mom to rush him to the emergency room on Mother’s day. The emergency room vet, who knows Ozzie very well due to his appetite for anything inappropriate, noted that she didn’t see much wrong with his anal glands but he had been on antibiotics.  We changed the treatment protocol but were warned to make a recheck appointment if he didn’t get better. Ozzie did very well on this new treatment until the treatment stopped, then it all came back. Off to the Internal Medicine Specialist we go! 

The beginning of June, Ozzie visited the Internal Medicine Specialist who changed the treatment protocol and warned me that if this didn’t work we would need to do further diagnostics including colonoscopy. So far the cost was only $911.00 but I knew how much a colonoscopy/endoscopy would
cost. The new treatment didn’t do anything to help Ozzie and the day of diagnostics were scheduled.  Ozzie had to stay at the hospital for almost two days and while I couldn’t stay with him overnight, I was at the hospital by his side early the morning of his procedure (of course visited with him most of
the day prior too). I never once had to worry about how I was going to pay for this because he was insured with Embrace. I made sure Ozzie was insured extremely early in his life before he had a chance to develop any pre-existing conditions. I had confidence this would be covered and after submitting my claim and going through our stringent internal review for Embracer claims, it was.  I was able to be worried about my boy and focus on just being with him.

The emotional/financial rollercoaster doesn’t stop there. It turns out Ozzie had Irritable Bowel Disease but not only did his story continue, my little girl, Mysha, became seriously ill 3 days after he came home.  Again, something simple that turned out to be serious. She coughed once and I didn’t think much of it. The cough progressed and of course we were into the vet immediately but despite the best efforts by the vets, they couldn’t save her. Ozzie came home on Tuesday and my Mysha
crossed the rainbow bridge the following Sunday. Ozzie’s expense for his diagnostics were an additional $2500 and Mysha’s expenses were $2600. It’s never about money when it comes to my babies care but knowing we didn’t have to worry about the financial side let me mourn my little girl and focus my efforts on Ozzie’s care.

Ozzie 2Well you guessed it, Ozzie wasn’t out of the woods yet. His treatment for the Irritable Bowel Disease caused more harm than good. I watched my beautiful boy waste away to nothing.  He was lethargic and lost all of his muscle mass. He didn’t play anymore, had trouble getting off and on the couch , we had to lift him onto the bed and my baby who once gave me kisses any chance he could, stopped giving me kisses. I consulted with the vet weekly and continually pressured to change the treatment because of what was happening. Again, Embrace came through and I was able to get a second opinion without worrying about the expense.  This occurred near the middle of August, and the new Internal Medicine Specialist changed his treatment. After only two days on the new treatment, Ozzie was more alert and wanted to play. He even gave me kisses again.

The next day he was playing and doing so much better but we didn’t realize we were at the top of another hill on the roller coaster ride. Ozzie vomited at 3:00 am on a Sunday morning, he had a lot of activity the day prior and he didn’t seem critical so we decided to wait a bit to see how he did. Later that morning, he was worse and didn’t want to eat anything including my breakfast, which is not like him.  We rushed to the emergency room again.  The vets were suspicious of a foreign body but due to the treatment of Irritable Bowel Disease he was not a good candidate for surgery. They decided to keep him and have the radiologist review the radiographs and possibly do more diagnostics. I decided to go home because I couldn’t stay with him and I would just wait for the vets update. 

I hadn’t been home for 15 minutes when I got the call. The veterinarian called to say that Ozzie’s stomach had ruptured and she needed my authorization to rush him to emergency surgery. I went back to the hospital to at least be in the building during his surgery. I was able to visit with Ozzie and meet the surgeon who reviewed all of the details with me including the uncomfortable (for the vet) topic of expense. I think he actually breathed a sigh of relief when I told him Ozzie was insured and we didn’t need to worry about expense.  

My husband left work as early as he could and met me at the hospital to wait. Over 4 hours later the surgeon emerged to let us know that Ozzie did well through surgery but the prognosis was bad. Ozzie had ingested 5 socks and a bandana but the surgeon felt this isn’t what ruptured his stomach.  He let us know that he took a biopsy sample to figure out what caused this. This is when he let us know that Ozzie most likely wouldn’t make it (well, at least that’s what we heard) but he was going to do the best he possibly could. The surgeon let us know he would call us immediately if Ozzie worsened so we could be there if he should go to meet his sister across the rainbow bridge. Again, we were not concerned about finances and could just focus on Ozzie.  My husband and I have been through this before and knew this was going to be between $5000 and $8000. The final bill was $7500.

My strong boy amazed everyone and not only pulled through but exceeded everyone’s expectations.  He has since gained most of his strength back and has returned to the hyperactive boy he was before this whole ordeal. His Irritable Bowel Disease in maintained and we are weaning him off of all treatments. 

We found out that his stomach was the perfect storm. He was immune-compromised due to the treatment of the irritable bowel disease and he developed an overgrowth of bacteria that caused an ulceration in his stomach. Plant material was found on biopsy of the tissue so we can only speculate that he ate a piece of plant material that was hard and it punctured the weak spot causing it to rupture. Where most dogs eat grass when they’re stomach is upset, Ozzie eats clothing.  We are
doing everything to prevent a relapse and we have puppy proofed the house even more diligently than before.

As an Embrace employee, it’s difficult to tell people about my claim stories because many feel that employees get special treatment working for Embrace; however, this is the farthest from the truth.  Employee’s undergo a much more strict claim review than our non-employee pet parents. Our claims are processed according to the same policy terms and conditions but there is an additional review by our Chief Embracer to ensure there’s no funny business and are audited by our insurance underwriter twice a year. Our claims are just as real and even if I didn’t work for Embrace, all of my pets will be insured by Embrace.  There’s no way I could save up to pay for the $12,000 in bills that piled up in just 4 months.  Thank you Embrace for all you do and helping me to provide the best care to my family members without having to worry about how we will afford it.

To date, Ozzie is recovering remarkably well and has been spitting his ball onto my laptop trying to get my attention as I was typing this.  He’s even gone as far as licking my laptop screen :)  I’m so very thankful to have my boy with me today and thankful to Embrace for being the company they say they are. Ozzie sends you many puppy kisses for helping to save his life!

Related Posts:
October is Pet Adoption Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: veterinary perspective on adopting your cat or dog
Claim story: Ozzie's "perfect storm of a stomach" surgery
Guest Post: Dr Patrick Mahaney talks about pet adoptions

Guest Post: 7 Autumn Health Tips for Dogs&Cats

As we get our first frosty night here in north-east Ohio, it seems timely to post this piece from Laci Schaible, our veterinary friend over at Vet Live. Enjoy!

There is nothing quite like a crisp autumn breeze, beautiful foliage, and the smell of warm spices baking in the kitchen. Do  beware though--fall ushers in a bushel of dangers for our furry companions.
Here’s how to keep your pets safe and healthy this season. 

  1. An increased need for food as the summer heat lessens up?

    Several decades ago, your veterinarian may have recommended a slight increase in your pet's food consumption as the weather cooled and your pet required slightly more caloric intake to regulate his system. Today, however, things have changed. With a shocking number of pets categorized as obese and most dogs and cats are primarily house pets, this isn't a concern for most pet parents. If you do have a very fit working dog, a small increase may be a wise idea; with this said, an increase around 10% is probably all that is necessary. This does not mean an extra meal or an unlimited pass to treats.

  2. School and home project supplies pose risks to curious pets.

    While kids may be dedicated to keeping their school supplies tidy for the first week or so, at this point in the season, school supplies may be holding living rooms hostage. School glues, permanent markers, and pencils can all cause upset stomachs. Heavy-duty glues can cause serious blockages in the GI tract and even require surgery to remove them—and part of your pet’s GI system. Make sure your children's projects stay covered up and are not accessible to your pets. Dogs in particular seem to like the flavor of glue.

    This also goes for adults if you’re doing home improvement projects now that the weather has cooled off. I once had to remove over 12” of small intestine from a dog when his owner ran to Lowe's in the middle of a flooring project. His dog “helped” in the owner’s absence by ripping up the remaining linoleum and ingesting all the remaining glue. These accidents are easily avoided but repairing the damage is never as simple.

  3. An apple a day?

    As it turns out, apples are not the cure to health for Fido or Fluffy. If your dog likes to graze the ground for food, consider leaving Fido at home during your stroll of the apple orchards. While the flesh of ripe apples doesn’t pose a problem for dogs or cats, apple stems, leaves and seeds are not so gentle. They can cause GI upset, decreased oxygen in the blood, decreased heart rate, difficulty breathing, seizures, coma, and even death. With reasonable preparation, the flesh of apples can make a suitable treat for dogs but cats are unlikely to enjoy the flavor of this fruit.

  4. Fall is a prime season for mushrooms.

    While most are non-toxic, dogs are highly susceptible to mushroom poisoning because of their wandering and scavenging behavior. Unfortunately, dogs are unable to sniff out the toxic ones, so the best way to avoid trouble is to keep pets away from areas where any mushrooms are growing. Dogs should be prevented from consuming mushrooms when they are being exercised. Profuse bloody diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dehydration, fever, and elevated heart rates characterize the initial phase of mushroom toxicity. Without treatment, the pet will succumb to liver and kidney failure within 3-7 days. As with most poisonings, prompt upper gastrointestinal decontamination and supportive care are critical elements of treatment.

  5. Snakebite season is here.

    Autumn is the season when snakes prepare for hibernation and are more likely to strike, increasing the possibility of bites to naive and curious pets. Be aware of what kinds of venomous snakes are in your area and avoid the areas they most often inhabit.

  6. The fall season brings highly caloric foods and drinks that don't end with the Halloween candy bowl.

    Sharing human treats can be dangerous and even deadly. Stay away from desserts, candies, fatty meat and trimmings, bones, gravies, calorie-dense casseroles, and seasoned sides. Don't forget garlic and onions are toxic! Many pet parents aren't aware of the many dangerous things that can happen, such as acute and life-threatening pancreatitis, a condition brought on when a pet ingests highly fatty foods.

    A note for any season: Do you know the most popular flavor of dog medication? It's CHOCOLATE! Turns out we aren't the only ones that enjoy the rich flavor of cocoa beans. Dogs will go to great lengths, or counter-top heights, to indulge in this deadly vice so don't leave the candy bowl or kitchen counter unsupervised and within a paw's reach for a moment!

  7. Consider adding pumpkin to your pet's diet if you are looking for a healthy nutritious seasonal treat.

    Pumpkin, both raw and canned, is safe provided your pet is not suffering from a chronic condition such as kidney disease or diabetes. As far as our healthy pets go, seeds and flesh of fresh, raw or cooked pumpkins are safe. Fresh pumpkin is more nutritious than canned. If you choose to go with canned, make sure it doesn’t have added sugar or sweeteners. An easy way to have some handy dog treats around that will last several weeks is roasting the seeds in the oven.

With a little preparation and knowledge, you can be sure to avoid havoc and habits that would otherwise lengthen your soon to be pet New Years Resolutions (hint, hint, nudge, nudge, put #6 on your fridge door or taped to the doggy treat bowl).

I know you must have some advice I've missed--after all, pet parents don't always fess up to their vets. No judgment here; the snake tip is my personal addition to the collection. Do share--have you had any run ins with fall pet hazards that could have been avoided?  



Guest Post: veterinary perspective on adopting your cat or dog

This month's topic is pet adoption and Dr Riggs talks about his experience with dog adoptions from a veterinary perspective.

Rescuing or adopting has become the "new" way to acquire a new pet these days.  People have seen or heard too much of the horrors of puppy mills and pet stores, and many have decided not to go this route. I could not be happier!

In 27 years of practice I can’t tell you how many sick and genetically defective animals I have seen from pet stores and poor breeders.  Ohio has dubiously become a national supplier of puppy mill puppies in recent years, most commonly coming from Amish farms in the north central part of our state. Yes… the Amish.

It is not uncommon for me to not recognize the breed of the pet simply because of over breeding and poor genetic selection of parents; many of these animals have little resemblance to the breed they are supposed to be.  It is sad. Sad for the animal.  Sad for the family. The family who comes in to my hospital excited about their new pet, only to be told they have a seriously sick or congenital defective animal.  So….do not buy animals from a pet store. Don’t even go in because you will be hooked.

Ossa 11My wife and I have two rescue dogs.  Ossa is a release dog from Canine Companions for Independence (CCI),  a wonderful organization which I am honored to be associated with. CCI has very stringent requirements for their companion service dogs and Ossa was just a little shy.  She is a golden retriever. 

This is a good place to stress that no matter what breed you are looking for; there is a breed rescue group. So you can’t let the excuse of looking for a purebred dog exclude you from rescuing a dog. 

My other dog is Maggie, our pride and joy.  I remember the day we got her at a local shelter. We went there to pick up a dog we had seen the day before, and we did. We were almost out the door when my wife spotted this adorable and pathetic mutt of a puppy, sitting at the door of her cage.  I didn’t have a chance.  We left with two new additions to our family.  That was 17 years ago and Maggie the wonder dog is still with us and doing just fine.  

MaggieThis brings up a good point.  Mix breed dogs are often healthier and live longer than purebred dogs.  This often surprises people.  Mix breed dogs have what is called hybrid vigor, which means they get best traits of both, or many breeds, of their parents.  Purebred dogs have a decreased gene pool, due to breeding with the same breed over and over.  Recessive genes are hidden genes, which can be expressed when breeding for a desired trait and resulting in unwanted genetic disorders.  There are good breeders who try very hard to breed these defects out, but it is difficult.

So what is the first thing you do when you get your new rescue pet?  No you do not go to the pet store and buy all the things you don’t need or get the “food du jour” from the teenager working that day! 

You take it to your vet to get a good exam and professional recommendations of what you need.

HanThis first veterinary exam should be from head to toe, looking at the eyes, ears, teeth, skin, palpating the abdomen and listening to the heart. You should also have a fecal check even if this was just done.

You need to realize the doctor might find some problems, ranging from minor to life threatening.  You need to be informed of any possible problems. If problems are detected, you need to determine if you can deal with them.  That is a personal decision. My hospital manager just adopted a 1 year old, deaf and partially blind dog.  Many people would not be able to handle that, but Han (the white dog on the right) has found a great and loving home.

I often say that dogs and cats have other senses that we do not have.  I think they know when they are given a second chance.  Rescue dogs just seem happier to me.  You will be happy too, if you give an animal a second (or third or fourth) chance at a happy life.

Related Posts:
October is Pet Adoption Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: veterinary perspective on adopting your cat or dog
Claim story: Ozzie's "perfect storm of a stomach" surgery
Guest Post: Dr Patrick Mahaney talks about pet adoptions

Other posts by Dr Riggs

Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.

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